Tag - baht

Money Matters in Laos

Money Matters in Laos
Money Matters in Laos
Money Matters in Laos

The official currency of Laos is the Laos kip (LAK), which comes in 100, 500, 1000, 2000 and 5000 kip notes. Although this is the country’s only official currency, Thai Baht and US Dollars are also accepted in many places, especially tourist areas, which can make life easier if you are travelling to Laos from Thailand. You will need a ready supply of kip notes for use in smaller towns and villages as well as for small purchases.

Because it is such a poor country, the cost of visiting Laos is low, even compared to other Asian countries. Accommodation and transport are cheap and most people should be able to get by comfortably on $15 USD per day, although you can spend a lot more if you choose to eat and sleep in exclusive hotels. If you need to save money, it is possible to spend as little as $10 USD per day by eating at the local markets and staying in the cheapest hotels or guesthouses.

Make sure you bring a good supply of cash and traveller’s cheques with you as most places don’t accept credit cards and finding a cash machine can be difficult.

Changing your Money
There are banks located in all main towns and these can exchange all major currencies. The best rates can be found in Vientiane and Luang Prabang, where competition is higher than the rest of the country.

Traveller’s cheques can be cashed in exchange bureaus and banks, which can be found all over Laos and traveller’s cheques in US Dollars, are preferred.

You cannot exchange kip outside of Laos, so make sure you convert your cash before leaving the country.

ATMs
Cash machines have only recently made their way into Laos, and even now they can only really be found in Vientiane. Unfortunately, even in Vientiane the number to ATM machines are limited and they often break down. Also be aware that there is a limit to how much you can draw out at a time and there are quite hefty charges for doing so. To avoid potential problems it is best to make sure you draw enough money for your trip before entering Laos or take traveller’s cheques as these can be cashed in most of the tourist areas.

Tipping
Tipping is not common practice is Laos and will not be expected of you. However, generosity will always be appreciated, especially as the average salary is very low.

Khao San Road Transport

Khao San Road Transportm Bangkok, Thailand
Khao San Road Transportm Bangkok, Thailand
Khao San Road Transportm Bangkok, Thailand
Khao San Road Transportm Bangkok, Thailand
Khao San Road Transportm Bangkok, Thailand
Khao San Road Transportm Bangkok, Thailand

Getting to and from Khao San Road is easy as this area is well connected to the rest of Bangkok by bus and ferry. Most taxi and tuk-tuk drivers also know this area well, so visitors should have no trouble getting here from any part of Bangkok or the surrounding area.

There is a direct bus to Khao San Road from the airport, and the journey takes around an hour. The air-conditioned AE2 bus takes passengers to the top of Khao San Road for 150 baht, while there are also small local buses that complete the journey for just 35 baht. Those who are travelling in a group may find it more economical and convenient to catch a taxi from the booth outside the main entrance. The fare should cost around 350 in total, including a small charge to cover the toll way tax.

Khao San Road isn’t located near either the underground or sky rail system. However, the Chao Phraya River is just a ten-minute walk away and pier 13 is located at the end of Phra Athit Road. Taking the ferry along the river is a great way to see the sights and it stops at a number of different districts such as Chinatown and Thonburi. There is a Skytrain station at Central Pier, which whisks visitors into the heart of Bangkok in a matter of minutes.

Buses pass by Khao San Road on their way to most parts of Bangkok and those in the know will be able to get around fairly easily by bus. The travel agencies on Khao San Road are a good source of information and most are happy to give advice about which bus to take.

All air-conditioned taxis in Bangkok are supposed to use the meter, which starts at 35 baht. However, most of the taxi and tuk-tuk drivers that par at either end of Khao San Road have to pay a fee to stay there are unwilling to use the meter. The fee they charge for trips is often quite high and it is better to walk a few meters from Khao San Road and flag one of the passing taxis, insisting that they use the meter.

The three-wheeled vehicles known as tuk-tuks are good at nipping through the Bangkok traffic, which can save time in the rush hours. It is important to negotiate the price before getting into the tuk-tuk as fare prices are not fixed. The quoted fare will usually be high to start with, but with a little gentle persuasion it is possible to end up paying around half the starting price.

There are a number of tuk-tuk drivers on Khao San Road who offer to take tourists on a trip around the city for just 20 baht. While this may seem like a cheap way to see the sights, visitors should know that these drivers make their money by taking tourists to a number of different jewellery shops on the way. They make a commission for anything you buy and if you plan to make a purchase anyway this could still be a good deal, but unsuspecting travellers could end up with more than they bargained for.

Money Matters in Thailand

Money Matters in Thailand
Money Matters in Thailand
Money Matters in Thailand
Money Matters in Thailand

The currency used in Thailand is the Baht. Baht notes come in denominations of 20 (green), 50 (blue), 100 (red), 500 (purple) and 1000 (brown). All notes feature pictures of the current king, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and you must be careful when handling the notes not to tear them as it is an offence to defile his image. Coins are large 10 Baht coins, 5 Baht, 2 Baht and 1 Baht. The two Baht and 1 Baht coins look very similar, although the 2 Baht coins are slightly bigger and have a picture of The Golden Mount on the back.

Satang coins are much smaller and bronze coloured. There are 100 satang in one Baht and these coins are available in 25-satang and 50-satang pieces.

Compared to the West, Thailand is actually a very inexpensive country for visitors. If you are willing to dine at small street stands or markets, you can eat a good meal for less than 50 Baht. Public transport is very cheap too, as are clothes and accessories.

For those travelling on a tight budget, 500.00 Baht a day should be enough anywhere in Thailand. If you want to stay in comfortable hotels and eat at restaurants, you should increase your budget to around 600.00 – 1000.00 Baht a day outside Bangkok and major tourist hot spots such as Phuket, where you can expect to pay around double.

For those with deep pockets, there is no end to the luxury that you can find in Bangkok and key tourist destination. Bangkok boasts some excellent dining options, top of the range hotels and shopping opportunities.

Changing Your Money

Banks or legal money-changers offer the best rates. ATMs that accept Visa and other credit cards are easy to find throughout Thailand, although an obvious exception is small villages to the north of Thailand. Many exchange booths will give you a cash advance on your credit card.

When buying Baht, US dollars are the most eagerly accepted currency and it is a good idea to have a supply of travellers’ cheques as they receive a better rate than cash. British pounds are the next-best alternative. Credit cards are becoming increasingly acceptable in shops, hotels and restaurants, with Visa being the most useful, followed by MasterCard.

Sample Prices:

Pad thai on the street: 40 Baht
Bottled water: 10-12 Baht
Bus fare: 6-16 Baht
Small Singha beer: 70-100 Baht
Souvenir t-shirt: 200-300 Baht
Cinema tickets: 120-170 Baht +

Average Room Prices Baht:

Budget: 130 (limited number) -600 Baht

Mid: 600-1500 Baht

High: 1500+ Baht

Tipping

Tipping is not generally expected in Thailand, although change is often left at the end of a large, expensive meal. However, most Thais will generally only leave a token tip of 20 baht or so.

There is often a 10% service charge will be added to your bill at many top class restaurants and in this case tipping is not expected.

Survival Tips for Thailand

Survival Tips in Thailand
Survival Tips in Thailand
Survival Tips in Thailand
Survival Tips in Thailand

Generally, Thailand is a very friendly place to visit, however a few precautions and a measure of common sense can go a long way to making your experience smooth and enjoyable.

It is a good idea to carry a selection of change such as 20 baht notes and coins as many people cannot change large notes, especially in small towns and villages. If you are stuck for change, buying an inexpensive item at 7/11 or a similar shop usually does the trick.

Touts at airports and other tourist areas are there for one reason only: to make money. Unfortunately, this usually involves parting unwary travelers from their cash. You should always question any offer that seems ‘too good’, and get a good idea of average hotel prices before agreeing to go with someone.

Always use the meter in taxis or, if taking a tuk-tuk or motorbike taxi, makes sure you agree the price before hopping on board.

Young, fresh coconuts are much more refreshing than water, great if you are spending the day on the beach or suffering from a hangover.

Although the tap water is drinkable in large cities, it is best to stick to bottled water. The larger bottles of UV treated water are the cheapest, although not the healthiest. It is worth paying a few baht more for brands such as Singha or IO.

In Bangkok, the entire city becomes gridlocked during peak commuting hours of 8-10 am and 5-7 pm. It is best to try to avoid travelling at these times.

Essentials such as suntan lotion and mosquito spray tend to be a little bit more expensive on the islands, so it is a good idea to stock up before you go. Internet access is often much more expensive as well.

Guesthouse owners a generally a good source of local information, it is worth getting to know them.

Make sure you check the expiry date of your visa carefully as there is an overstay fine of 500 baht per day.

Many bathrooms do not provide toilet tissue, so it is a good idea to carry some with you. Remember to throw it into the bucket provided rather than into the toilet.
 
Sarongs are an essential item as they dry much quicker than towels and can also be used as a blanket, a privacy screen and an item of clothing.

Learning a few words in Thai can go a long way to getting what you want and forming friendships. Compliments and jokes are always effective.

It is a good idea to carry a photocopy of your passport, especially when going out drinking as police perform random checks and may ask to see it.

It’s easy to become dehydrated, make sure you carry water and drink small sips frequently.

If you need to get away from the heat for a while, cinemas, expensive hotels and even 7/11 shops provide sanctuary.

A small dab of perfume or aftershave under your nose is a great way to avoid suffering from bad smells.

Isaan by Motorbike – Day 4 (Part 2)

Isaan Tour - Northeast ThailandAfter the temple I wanted to make up for some lost time. Also my ass was still hurting from the punishment I had been giving it. The bike seat, nothing else.

I was on a huge open road. So I slowly took the speed up to 140km/h +. Breaking the speed limit for sure but heh, no police, no cameras and most of all there was no traffic on the road. In the distance someone came into view.

I caught up with them very quickly, then with no signals or checking in their non-existent mirrors they pulled over to the right hand side of the road, right in front of me. Like a slow motion sequence. I was trying to work out where on the road the space for me would be when I caught up with them. Not easy with only about 2 seconds thinking and reaction time. I slammed on the breaks – enough to slow but not enough to skid. I daren’t sound the horn for fear of them changing their course. Heavy braking and a bank to the left pulled me out of their way with maybe 6 inches to spare. NOTE TO SELF, SLOW THE F*** DOWN.

motorbike_travels_day_four_14A SIGNPOST FOR A WATERFALL

On to the next waterfall!!! It would be so nice , once again a chance to swim in the refreshing water and bask in the baking sun. I drove away from the main highway. Through open fields on dirt tracks, searching for the waterfall. After leaving the main highway the road signs were all in Thai. I had to somehow work out by radar where the water was.

These open fields all had some large golden leaved plants, I was not sure what they were, maybe some sort of cabbage. Then I saw the open barns drying the leaves. When I got close to one of the barns I smelled a wonderful aroma. The smell of fresh tobacco. This was obviously a tobacco farming area. The smell was amazing.

I tried to buy some tobacco from one of the farmers, just a little bit to go with the meat I had bought in Tae Rae. This was where the language barrier got the better of me. I could not understand a bloody word they were saying. Everything I said received blank looks. I tried for a few minutes including hand-signals and the like but to no avail.

I carried on to the waterfall. It was a great drive through increasingly dusty tracks. I found my goal. I parked up the motorbike and went for a walk.

motorbike_travels_day_four_16Guess what. Yes, another water not fall. This place was still beautiful, even with no water.

Phulangka national park is the location of this water not fall. I rested in the shade of the trees for a while and took a few photos before making my way back to the main highway.

I drove onto Bueang Kan. I easily found and checked into the Samar Guest house. A really smart place. It looked brand new and at 300 baht per night it is amazing. It was ultra clean, amazingly clean; it was so clean that I might have been the first person to stay in this room.

I went for my daily massage. OK I have had some strange massages in my time but this one pretty much took the biscuit. I got the usual banter – you speak Thai? – velly gooood, have girlfriend, how long in Thailand – blah blah blah. OK.

Then the second masseur started to touch my tattoos. “Ooh very sexy” I smiled. Then they started to talk about me not having a girlfriend, suggesting that when I travel I do not have a girlfriend. DANGER WILL ROBINSON DANGER.

motorbike_travels_day_four_17After she finished playing with my nipple and me telling them that I do have a girlfriend I arranged to meet them at eight o’clock (whilst planning my escape route. Over the razor wire, through the muddy tunnel and out across the tobacco fields till I reach the Mae Khong to swim to Loas for freedom form the evil twins. Oh yes accompanied by a bottle of wine.

After the massage I drove around the town to have a look around. I found a wine shop there, it was amazing. A really nice owner who I spoke with for a while. He was talking mainly that it was nice to have someone come in and choose a bottle of wine by the label and not the price; saying that there were not many wine drinkers in the area. The locals mainly being made up of whisky drinkers. He had a full range of wines, all stored well and from good vintners. I took my time choosing my bottle then found a restaurant.

The restaurant I chose was on the river front. The head waiter spoke very good English. I took a low seat and asked them for a glass for my ready opened bottle of nine year old cabernet sauvignon. Tasty food and a bottle of wine. The placement of the restaurant was great , with low tables for the more traditional manner of sitting down to eat.

Then it was back to the guesthouse, avoiding the massage house that was less than 200 metres from the guest house. Ninja style!!!

A perfect end to a crazy day.

Note: Story author is Steven Noake.